A pause for appreciation for those that feed us, organically
I learned about gratitude as a little girl. It was not taught to me in school or by my parents or by my country. It was taught to me by Nicaraguans. Poor Nicaraguans to be specific, who had nothing much of physical, monetary, or economic value in their possessions. At the time, mid to later 1980’s these average Nicaraguans were struggling to find food and basic necessities amidst embargoes, wars, political power struggles, corruption, CIA involvement, cocaine trafficking and more. My family, my father and four brothers just happened to be living alongside them, in similar circumstances, the struggling to find necessities part. I paid attention then, as I do now and noticed early on that despite having, what I considered, from my viewpoint as a young girl coming from a poor family in Los Angeles, nothing- they were happy. They were generous and above all they had gratitude. It took me a while to understand this formula, but eventually it’s one that is now etched in my bones and part of my blood. A way of being that I couldn’t stop being attracted to. The attraction, to living around those with immense gratitude is what lead me to farmers, small organic farmers to be exact.
Fast forward all these years later and over 25 years of traveling the world working with global farmers; everywhere from Tunisia, to Holland, to Palestine, to Peru and beyond, including of course Mexico. What I have learned most about gratitude comes from these experiences, it comes from the farmers and their families and the farming communities that surround. The hard work and struggle that embodies farming is immense (take COVID for example) but the willingness to keep moving through the obstacles and more obstacles, all with a grace rarely seen in other industries. Farmers give us food, we need food, yet their value is often pushed down by others who do less work and with far less gratitude.
Farming organically is hard, especially for the ones that were the pioneers in their country, in their crop, or just in doing it well. It’s hard to articulate exactly the kind of gratitude I witness out there in my travels to the farms, fields, and homes of farmers throughout the world so instead of me botching it up I’ll let my favorite modern day philosopher (he’s also a poet), David Whyte’s words do it for me…. I think his words embody the real gratitude that most the organic farmers I know personify.
Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.
Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.
Considering these last several years of unbelievable suffering, confusion, chaos and pain for the entire world as we sit down to our Thanksgiving tables this year, a year in which most of us have a lot of the be thankful for, make sure to spend some time thinking about the role of the people who grow our food and how we can continue to make our food systems more equitable for all. This is important especially for those of us working in the industry, who should know more and strive to do our part in making it better.
I personally would like to end this thanking the Crespo family in particular, I know this has not been an easy few years south of the border and I see you and the little girl in me feels at home in your gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! May your table be filled with love and organic goodies to feast on!